“Everybody wants to “Grow”: the biggest blockage is our orthodoxy!”

by Didier Marlier on Sunday October 31st, 2010

I don’t breach any confidentiality by sharing that wherever I travel in the world, “Growth” has become the central strategy piece of all organizations I speak to… at the point of wondering if un-grow couldn’t be a really worthy disruptive strategy!

So everybody wants to grow? Those who truly will, in a sustainable way, will put energy behind that intention and challenge implicit assumptions on which their current business models are based.

In February 2010, we invited Dr. Kristin Doyle, a Director at the Albert Ellis Institute[1], to explore whether or not Dr. Ellis therapy could have application for business. The therapy developed by Ellis is called R.E.B.T. (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy)[2]. Taking a steep shortcut, this is what we found:

  • R.E.B.T. helps patients identify the self-limiting and self defeating “tapes” or beliefs they hold within themselves
  • It then challenges the patients about those beliefs (“Why would it always happen like this? Why should people behave like that? Etc…”)
  • In the third step patients construct positive and credible alternative beliefs or stories
  • Finally, when insecurity or anxiety are triggered, the patients learn to choose (strategy is about making choices would say Nick van Heck) which beliefs they want to play from.

So, following R.E.B.T. we do construct our own self limiting ways of thinking and are also able to deconstruct them. It isn’t without reasons that therapies such as R.E.B.T. are now rapidly gaining interest and recognition and seem to take over from lengthy traditional other types of analysis.

Recently, an article in the Swiss press from two professors[3] of Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) drew my attention when talking about the power of implicit memory. Their context was about addiction but some of their points supported an excellent article of David Rock[4] (“The Neuroscience of Leadership”). Humans have an implicit memory in which they happily store the information that can be used on “Automatic pilot” (all the things we have come to do naturally, instinctively and almost automatically). There are two good reasons for this: we would otherwise be incapable of multi-tasking and the implicit memory consumes far less energy than the “working memory” (the one we use to reflect, think, analyze, create). Physiologically we are programmed to store as much as we can in our implicit memory. The problem is that a sizeable lot of the assumptions, reflections, hypothesis on which we build our tomorrow’s strategy come directly from that “unconscious memory”. According to Francisco Varela[5] the famous neuroscientist “more than 80% of the information we use to create visual perceptions of the world comes      from information already inside the brain”. Talk about preconceived ideas? THIS is also at play during our strategic dialogues!!!

The clip here below was already posted on this blog. It shows one of the world’s leading musicians, Joshua Bell, playing in the metro of Washington, the same concert he had played days before. Nobody stops nor listens as for the busy people the information given by their implicit memory is that no star would ever play at 7.45 am with a 3.5 million US$ Stradivarius in such a risky place than metro…

We will not grow in a sustainable way through “Last year’s budget + 5% mindset”. We will need a totally different mental map which will previously require to identify our implicit assumptions and other (self) limiting beliefs about our businesses.

São-Paulo and Belo-Horizonte were, as always a refreshing occasion to dive into bits of tomorrow’s world. “Emerging” economies and their actors seem far less restrained by inherited orthodoxies than we, in US and Europe, are. And the results are fascinanting…

On my way to Paris, have a good week all! Didier

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Ellis_%28psychologist%29

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_Emotive_Behavior_Therapy

[3] Prof. Jacques Besson & Prof. Ansgar Rougemont-Bücking

[4] http://www.strategy-business.com/article/06207

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_Varela

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4 Responses to ““Everybody wants to “Grow”: the biggest blockage is our orthodoxy!””

  1. Dear Didier,
    One of the profound lessons which I have been learning over the last few years is that it is not always wise to simply pursue endless growth and endless improvement – a difficult challenge for someone who’s DNA screams INNOVATE AND IMPROVE!!! I’ve been fortunate enough to be working closely with the executives of my organisation and have been able to experience a successful human (informal) strategy formulation process. Picking the right fights, and not allowing some improvements to move because they either aren’t required now or might damage the company’s culture. As Nick states – strategy is choices – and making choices is not always easy.
    Regarding the limitations of our history, can’t this be both a strength and a weakness? I’m thinking about the journey from unconscious incompetent to conscious competent. What if the world changes around us, then our achievement of ‘flow’ becomes a weakness suddenly…. For me, the best way to survive this cycle is based on constant self-reflection and being aware of what the environment is telling me.
    Enjoy Paris!
    Regards, Chris

  2. Thank you Chris,
    I guess this is one of the reasons why Nick McRoberts (the bright individual shown conducting Brahms on the previous post) has started studying and researching what “un-growth” would mean to some businesses, as a disruptive strategy…
    Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts that I find really valuable!!! The day we push the ideas further in 2011, I would very much appreciate to count you in!
    Have a great evening

  3. “The biggest blockage is our orthodoxy!”? You bet! We probably could add it’s the biggest threat in our rapidly changing world, not only in business but also in politics and social environment, with their own consequences on business.

    Allow me some quotes that I find quite accurate for this topic, specially as far as Varela and preconceived ideas are concerned:

    “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
    — Albert Einstein

    “There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.”
    — H.L. Mencken

    “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
    — Albert Einstein

    “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
    — T. S. Eliot

    Enjoy Paris!


    PS: You may find those quotes and very interesting links on http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/awc-thkg.htm (Don’t have a preconceived idea about the page’s host :-), but rather wonder if students read some of it given the disaster of US foreign military policies…) ;-))

  4. Thanks Dimitri, Yes like these quotes in particular Einstein’s.
    Paris is hard work but fascinating 😉
    Take care


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